The Slatest

Millions Gather on Rio de Janeiro Beach to Hear Pope Celebrate Mass

People crowd Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 28, 2013 as Pope Francis celebrates the final Mass of his visit to Brazil

Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis ended his trip to Brazil Sunday with a massive open-air Mass on Copacabana Beach, where some three million people gathered from around the world to hear his message directed at young Catholics. It was “one of the biggest turnouts for a papal Mass in recent history,” notes the Associated Press. Thousands had spent the night sleeping on the beach, as Rio de Janeiro’s famed coastline turned into a packed campground for the night. And when Francis appeared, he got the rock star-like reception that had become the norm throughout the week in what was the pope’s first trip to his home continent, points out Reuters.

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“The church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you,” Francis said, calling on young Catholics to spread their faith “to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.”

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The turnout Sunday was the largest crowd that had ever gathered on Copacabana Beach, beating the approximately two million who were there for the New Year’s celebrations this year, or the more than one million who attended a Rolling Stones concert in 2006, points out the Wall Street Journal. The pope’s popularity seems to be what the Church needs at a time when Roman Catholicism is losing ground to Evangelical Protestants throughout Latin America, and particularly in Brazil.

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Everyone already knew Francis as a popular pope, but Brazil confirmed “that his act plays as well on the road as at home,” points out John L Allen Jr. on CNN.

After the jump, a selection of pictures from Rio:

Pilgrims sleep before sunrise at Copacabana Beach during World Youth Day celebrations on July 28

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Catholic pilgrims attending World Youth Day (WYD) crowd Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro

Photo by VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

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Pope Francis waves and blesses the son of a policeman from the Popemobile

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Religious men wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis celebrates the final Mass of his visit to Brazil

Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

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Catholic pilgrims attending World Youth Day (WYD) follow a performer as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis

Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Faithfuls are seen on the shore of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro

Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff (L) and Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attend the final Mass of Pope Francis’ visit to Brazil

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

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Pope Francis celebrates the final Mass of his visit to Brazil

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

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